Via Nick J. comes a Vancouver Sun story by Nick Miliokas about a new book, The Lover’s Tongue: A Merry Romp Through the Language of Love and Sex, by Mark Morton. I don’t know how qualified Morton is to judge etymologies (he’s an assistant professor of English at the University of Winnipeg), but at least he recognizes that the fact that there are hundreds of words in the English language that first appeared in Shakespeare “doesn’t mean that he invented them.” And this seems like a fair statement: “Whenever Shakespeare could make a dirty pun, he would. He loved bawdy language, that’s for sure.” Plus there’s an informative bit about everybody’s favorite weird bawdy word, merkin:
…To set the stage: cast your mind back to the 1700′s. Syphilis is running rampant; indeed, there is no cure for, or reliable treatment of, veneral disease in general. Females embarrassed by hair loss in the vicinity of a certain private body part find comfort in the merkin—a “genital toupee, a pubic wig,” as Morton puts it.
“You would think they’d have more important things to worry about, under the circumstances,” he says. “But it’s funny the sort of things people worry about. I think it parallels cosmetic surgery in this day and age.”